By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
This blog is written in Arial font. While I can't fully control the fonts it shows up in when it travels out in various forms of syndication, for the version that lives on our site at Persuasive Litigator, I like Arial. It is a contemporary San Serif font that is pretty simple and clean, and in common use these days. But, I admit, I have not paid much attention to it. A piece from this past summer by Brendan Kenny in The Lawyerist, however, suggests that I should. And, more broadly, the piece recommends that lawyers should pay more attention to fonts in written persuasion. In the essay entitled, "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, 19th Century Fonts Have Got to Go," Kenny quotes attorney Mathew Butterick writing that, "Typography is the visual component of the written word." Litigators like to believe that content is king -- and it ought to be, particularly in written argument. But in other settings, lawyers would not ignore the visual component, and the same ought to hold for fonts: Pay attention to what it says...but don't ignore how it looks.
It is not just the font, but the overall typography including white space, that invites a reader in and makes attention and comprehension not just possible, but easy. Brendan Kenny writes about "RADD" or "Revoked Attention Donation Disorder" that can be a court's response to poor font use or bad typography. The phrase "revoked attention" is a good way of thinking about it. Readers will typically donate at least some level of attention as they begin to read, but that donation can be revoked if there isn't a reward, or if there is too much of a punishment attached to the task. "Judges develop RADD," Kenny writes, "when lawyers squander the gift of the judge’s attention by 'scatter[ing] some words across some pages' instead of presenting those words in the most effective and persuasive way possible." In this post, I'll share a few thoughts on font as they relate to written persuasion in litigation as well as their use in demonstrative exhibits.